Tag Archives: songwriter

Jersey Girls – Friends Forever

1964 Power FamilyBeing a Jersey girl in the early 60’s meant that you were savvy, pretty and street smart. My oldest brother hung around with car monkeys who, bent under the hoods of a pair of Mini-Coopers in my parents’ garage, puzzled to turn two beat up cars into one running one. With cigarettes hanging off the side of their mouths, they cannibalized the engines to life fueled on beer and testosterone. Town greasers flocked to the local soda fountain across the street from the Corner Cupboard where I waitressed after school. I would watch them as I stole a smoke during my break, and they would come and go like peacocks up and down the wooden steps, hoods with slicked back hair as they strut their stuff in tight jeans and leather jackets. The hippie movement was afoot and murmured its peace-and-love talk under the radar of the social storm about combust with activism for civil rights in the south and dissenters marching against the Vietnam war on the television news nationwide. Even though I’d left school in a plaid uniform while the public schools girls wore whatever they liked under teased hair and strong makeup, there was a universal default we shared as young women in the metropolitan New York City area. We were Jersey girls.

Looking back now, I’m glad that I came of age there. Coming out of a shy adolescence in New Jersey, I found ways to explore courage, independence and vast variations on the human theme as a budding songwriter. At fifteen, I would act on a dare to myself, skip school and take the shortcut through the woods behind our house to the train station. When the train came in I would hop on a coach to the Port Authority, and take the subway to the West Village where I would walk to Washington Square. After checking out whatever musicians might be busking at the time, I’d beeline from there to the Chock Full O Nuts a few blocks away to buy a cup of coffee and a glazed donut. Then I would perch soundly on a round chrome and vinyl stool to write poetry in my journal and look up to watch the tide of passersby through the safety glass of the window. Once done, I would retrace my steps back to the train and home, composition book underarm filled with insights from of my fresh adventure tightly rhymed within its pages. In my large family, the thrum of my unrevealed journey to the city and back resonated exotically inside, oblivious in the noisy din of family life at home. These dips in the world from the safety of the bedroom community exhilarated my teenaged sensibility and became my prompts to bigger steps as I grew closer to my emancipation from the nest.

Fifty years later, the familiarity of the streets of New York reminds me of those early days. I fly in from the Pacific Northwest, where I’ve resided for the last thirty-seven years, and walk in the Upper West Side from my in-law’s apartment on West 79th to take the subway with my husband to Brooklyn and visit relatives ensconced there. Manhattan is filled with the same charge that excited me all those years ago as a Jersey girl in Gotham. The feeling, the smells, the crush of people in the subway, the rush hour on the streets and sidewalks – it’s all still there in its daily improv with the elements and a cast of millions. The dynamics of just being there in the thick of it are breathtaking.

After blurting out the news of my pregnancy to my mother at eighteen years old, I walked into my bedroom teary-eyed and red-faced looking to escape. My younger sister Mary and her friend, Ruthie, a romantic poet of fifteen, were prone on the floor in the depths of swapping journal entries, dreams and Ouija board speculations. I told my sister I had something important to tell her. From the distressed look on my face, Ruthie picked up her diary and said she’d be downstairs in the kitchen. I told my sister what was going on. Mary would be one of the only siblings to know the truth. We told each other everything and this was no exception.

Fifty years later, this comes back to me as I ponder all of us Jersey girls. Ruth has remained friends with my sister and visited with us during family gatherings over the past few years. She is a seasoned editor and writing coach in Massachusetts and has been a strong advocate of Kathleen~Cathleen since its inception and has cheered us to finish over these ten years. This year she joined us and became our new editor for the project. We three aim to bring the manuscript to completion by the end of this summer.

I am struck by synchronicity once again as the story continues, not only from its history but in the living story today. We all live in other places now but we are telling the tale from the root and branches we stem from – as Jersey girls.

****************************************
To read my daughter’s counterblog, visit ReunionEyes.
****************************************

Advertisements

The Quest of Kathleen~Cathleen

Quest - Theodor_Kittelsen,_Soria_MoriaIn April of 1997, Joni Mitchell revealed that she had found and reunited with her relinquished daughter, for whom she had written “Little Green” on her “Blue” album.
On that same weekend seventeen years ago, Cathy and I were attending the American Adoption Congress Conference together in Vancouver, WA. There was a special announcement at the conference as the news broke and told the story worldwide that Joni Mitchell, the famous musician, had reunited with the baby whom she had given up at age nineteen. Joni and I had both been female musicians facing a turning point decision at the same age. The fact that she had let the world in on this most personal event rendered new courage for me to be open about my experience, and to share the truth about me and Cathy.

When we got to the conference, Cathy and I found that there weren’t very many attendees who had been in reunion for more than a few years. Being in reunion was still a new concept. We were among the few who had come as a reunited pair to explore what was there for us.

The featured presenter, Betty Jean Lifton, had inspired us to overcome some of the challenges we had faced in our relationship with her book, The Journey of the Adopted Self. Now after eight years in reunion, we were in a new phase without a map. When we asked Betty Jean if she could write something on long-term reunion, she said that we were the ones who should write that story.

So we did.

We drew up our outline ten years ago and decided to write our chapters without sharing with each other until we were done so the reader could integrate our experience as a whole and come to their own conclusions. As we approach the final draft of the final chapters, we also begin to prepare ourselves to share its pages with each other, with you and with the world.

Now, Cathy and I return to the American Adoption Congress conference – themed “Building Bridges for Changes” – as presentors to read from our book, Kathleen~Cathleen, and describe the experience of the birthmother and the relinquished adoptee in long-term reunion. This is the beginning, the first time that we share our story with each other, and with the world.

In light of the new birth record access laws in Oregon that affect not only adoptees, but for the first time in the nation, first mothers, we are encouraged to be brave and deliver our efforts in the hope of deepening understanding. We appreciate your support, your comments and your heartfelt thoughts as we open the book on Kathleen~Cathleen.
**********************************************************
To read my daughter’s counterblog, visit ReunionEyes.
**********************************************************

Birthday

“Castle of Dromore” (performed by Kate Power & Steve Einhorn)

I’m sitting on the sixth floor on West 79th Street in Manhattan. My in-laws are sound asleep in the next room. My husband is playing gently on his ukulele in ours. I’m considering the chapter I’ve been working on from where I sit at the dining room table and close my book of notes; I have finished for tonight.

In little more than an hour, the clock will strike midnight and it will be my birthday. I took a call from my eldest daughter an hour ago. Her voice was cheerful as she asked me what my birthday plans were. Our phone conversation was lined with the sounds of my young grandsons in the background and the normalcy of all this made my heart ripple and sing.

It’s never been like this for me before. “Normal” is more unusual for me and I notice when it happens. The edges that used to protect my feelings of loss have softened with time since Cathy and I reunited. I used to hold myself tightly inside at the sight of a baby on my birthday (or hers), on Mother’s Day, holidays, schoolyards filled with children at play. Our relationship has seasoned and mellowed over the twenty-three years since we met. The portal of my daughter’s love has opened a place that allows my joy to snap like happy fingers to the sound of children now. I embrace this time and cherish my role as mother and grandmother. I savor each second and each of them. In my eyes, they are the most beautiful beings on earth. Something in me believes says that angels hang close by the children of the earth. Children are the closest to God in innocence and purity, and only one step removed from the divine as new inhabitants to their human form. Innocence awes me.

As my dearly departed friend, Hazel, used to say, “If you live long enough, all is forgiven!” She may have something there. I chuckle to remember the warm gravel of her voice under shining eyes in her wizened old face, etched deeply with loveliness and time. If anybody knew the truth about life, it was Hazel. Perhaps aging is a gift after all.

Our phone call was interrupted as Cathy’s cell phone dropped the call. I held my mute phone and laughed out loud to no one in particular, “I was just telling her the best part!” and let it go. We emailed back and forth where we left off and both went back to our writing. Even three thousand miles away, there are things we do together when we are apart: the book and our blogs.

We’re working on chapters ten and eleven. Ten is the “Honeymoon” chapter and filled with mutual exploration four years after we met. She went to college, graduated and then decided to take me up on an invitation to visit me in Portland for the summer. Chapter eleven is “Going Dark” and the turning point from the bliss of innocence in reunion to the bleak depths of disappointment, anger and anguish that followed. The two chapters describe two sides that are markedly different and indelibly bound in the middle with the truth – two sides of a coin that paid our passage into discovery, delivery and ownership of our truth and our place in one another. I don’t know yet what my daughter has written in her side of these chapters but it doesn’t matter. Underneath whatever comes, I am a lucky mother, a proud first mother and a grateful birthmother.

I’ll be sixty-one in less than an hour. I was eighteen when I conceived Cathy and eighteen years later, at thirty-seven, we met again. I have been twenty-four years in reunion and connection in real-time with my daughter. It’s had its ups and downs, easy flow and rough patches – just like normal mothers and daughters – and she just called to wish me a happy birthday.

That’s just about the best birthday gift I can think of.

*************************************
To read my daughter’s counterblog, please visit ReunionEyes.
*************************************

Family Tree

Portland Rose on Mason Street
(“bring me a rose” kate power & steve einhorn, recorded by billy oskay, big red studio, corbett, oregon. song by ernie sheldon.)

I woke up this morning to a pair of evening grosbeaks out our window. They have spent the day crossing the backyard between the feeder and the tall grove of bamboo by the shed. Grosbeaks mark an annual highlight in bird migration here in the northwest; marmalade thrushes with black and white markings and beaks like parrots that talk in a foreign tongue, ambassadors of summer ahead.

As the pace ramps up a notch, all but working on the draft is on hold. The arrival of this pair of birds is a gift; fleeting, natural, beautiful and right on time to the tick of an ancient biological clock.

Our family buzzes with activity – two college graduations – Ben and Abby, Quinn and Reed’s birthdays, Abby moved to new digs and Lucy’s first week back at her old school, Eli prepares for China and Cathy digs into a writing class while we scramble for time to work on the book together. My children and grandchildren have each just finished a cycle and begun the next. The seasons turn.

This comes to me as a sign of hope, life and small miracles – like the birds. Like a rose in wintertime.

I am a root in the family tree. Years have added girth and dimension under the bark that wraps its sturdy skin around layers of history and genetics mixed in our own alchemy of sap that rises and falls through thick and thin. It’s more than blood. It’s life. Each branch grows in its own direction and draws from the roots skyward.

I am one root among many beneath branches that crown the ancestral tree and reflex with instinctive gratitude in return for family in bloom above ground.

*******
To view my daughter’s blog on the same topic, please visit ReunionEyes.

Mercy

MotherChild by steve einhorn©2008

Mercy High, Mercy Low (Cathy’s Song):

It’s been a wordy year for mothertone. Looking over past posts, I see where words fail me. No matter how exquisite the words I find to describe, they still nip at the heels of what I’m trying to say. Much of what’s in my heart gets lost in the translation to prose.

All the way back – as far as earliest memories of childhood go, I remember times when my heart was ready to bust with feelings bigger than me and rather than talking to my mother, father, sisters or brothers, I would sing.

I discovered an ancestral gift early on. Singers in my family went back generations. My father says I sang before I could talk. Whatever becomes of me, my songs leave a map of my journey.

As a youngster, I would quiet myself and sing when I needed to let my feelings come out from under my skin. I’d sit at the piano and my fingers would look around and in my young voice, melodies would unwind tangled emotions tied up inside my small world and I would sing them until a sense of peace filled me. Sometimes I was left with a little ditty, sometimes it left me with a song.  It was instinctive and became my practice to seek a kind of peace this way.

It never started with words; a hum opened up with an idea for a melody that would poke around for the story while my fussy mind took a break. I never knew what would come but I trusted it like fishing and learned to wait patiently for my catch. Songs manifested by heart tell what can’t be said any other way.

I look at all the words in my mothertone blog for Kathleen~Cathleen and realize that songwriting is easier for me. So, in honor of the occasion of Mother’s Day, I’d like to share one that found its way out of the thicket as our story unfolded. I wrote it for Cathy and it speaks my heart better than anything else I can say here.

This is a happy mother’s day. I am grateful for all of my children – and to my firstborn child for having the courage to be mine.

(Click “Mercy High, Mercy Low” under the photo on top of this post to hear. Drawing by Steve Einhorn)

To view my daughter’s blog on the same topic, please visit ReunionEyes.

Flashback

Kate at 4After a couple of trains to Portland in the past month, it was Cathy’s turn to take the train north to Olympia to write together this past weekend.  A blog about what happens when we write is this week’s focus. To talk about writing and to re-experience the issues we write about are two different conversations.

The former has to do with the unusual process we devised early on to share topics but not our content with each other. So far, that has given us the freedom to speak honestly and it has lent an element of trust that brings us close together.

Our secrecy surrounding our writing with each other also has given us permission not to talk about the things we write about. The fallout from what we don’t say remains to be felt when we share it all. There’s a good chance we will need some extra care and guidance once we finish to share what it is we’ve created.

What an unusual pact we’ve made! It is an act of trust – to say what is true for each of us in spite of the impact it may have. It scares me to think about reading about ways I have disappointed her. We have based the work of the past eight years on our personal truth. “The truth shall set you free.” The truth is what we perceive it to be and that means there will be flaws in the story that rise to the surface to self-correct as we speak from two directions. The intrigue has become part of the story.

Sometimes the actual experience of writing ambushes us by waking up subliminal unrest and moving us in unexpected ways that tells each of us that even though we have talked about our relationship a great deal over the years, we are still in the thick of experiencing it with all the consequences of our separation and reunion; who we were, who we are, and who we’ve become – to ourselves, to our families and to one another. Our relationship is part of our connection and disconnection with the world around us.

A good example from my side is a small but significant event that occurred last summer at a writers retreat called Fishtrap. I’ve been on the advisory board, presented on panels and taught songwriting at the Fishtrap writer retreats over the past ten years. It is a place I consider a harbor as a writer. I have written some of my best songs there, including “Travis John” “Before You Go” and “Wallowa”.

Cathy and I read from our book for the first time at last summer’s Fishtrap. Cathy was sequestered in a car away from the building while I read. Conversely, I sat in the car while she followed my reading with hers. The audience was the first group to ever hear us read our separate sides to the same chapter. As they listened, they integrated the collective truth that rose from our four-minute excerpts expressed in our own voices from our mutual story.

When I came back into the lodge after Cathy’s reading, I was struck by the feeling in the room and the faces visibly moved by our story. Comments of enthusiastic support rallied around us and we were encouraged to finish the book and get it out into the world. We had crossed a threshold by sharing our words out loud and in public. It was a big moment for us. Victorious. A first.

The next day I approached a publisher at the retreat to ask about finding an agent. I was nervous because this is one publisher I had hoped to send our book proposal to. I had broached our project with him a few years before. At the time, he had said, “Let me see it when you’re ready” and his words stayed with me as we worked and wrote. Now that I was bringing it to him, I introduced Cathy and told him where we were in our process.

What I thought happened next and what Cathy saw happen were two different things.

I thought I was presenting my daughter and our book to him. His response was that our subject was not something his company was interested in. I retreated to make room for the buzzing circle of writers waiting to approach him. My guts felt tight and I held my breath with an odd sense of relief for having tried. Rejection is something writers are supposed to expect and get used to. This was the first.

What Cathy saw was me poking the publisher with aggressive body language that told him about our book project as though he couldn’t have it, that it belonged to us and that there was no way I was going to give him our book. She was confused.

That five-minute interlude turned into a conversation that went on for hours between Cathy and I in front of her tent up the hill from the lodge, watered by tears so deep I couldn’t stop.  My daughter watched me with a serious face and listened to sobs of loss bound up inside her first mother, as they loosened into a river, undiluted by the passing of forty years. I tried to explain myself but knew I was in over my head. I didn’t know how to let go of this.

I was confused. I had no idea I had came off as a bully rather than the friendly herald I thought I was announcing readiness to share our book. Instead, my conversation was seen as aggressive and defensive, as though to prevent our book from being taken by this powerful publisher who could deliver it to the world. I had made a stand, he rejected it and I rejected him. What was happening?

I didn’t want them to take my baby. This was not about Cathy writing a book with me, it was about me giving her up and getting her back and now that book was getting closer to completion, I was giving her up again. The book was the baby. It was a massive bit of transference. I tell myself this isn’t therapy; it’s a metaphor – an emotional artifact. My job is to gather the truth and simply to tell the story the best way I can, simply and as the narrator. Not so simple.

The truth is that the truth isn’t what I thought it was. I thought I was trying to write a story of events as they happened. Instead, I find myself holding on to the baby in the story with my life – and this time, with everything defined and embodied in words, as if she would stay with me – I wasn’t going to let her go anywhere but where she belonged, with me.  The old sorrow takes the baby back again and again as though the story never happened or needed to be told.

I don’t know if I’ve ever lived out a metaphor like this before. Now I wonder if what I think I’m doing may only be a front for what I wish to do; to know her, to love her and to let her go to be part of the world – this time in a world we share to the end. It’s my job to finish my side of the story. The ending will take care of itself.

To view my daughter’s blog on the same topic, go to ReunionEyes.

Ukalaliens & Scientists

Cathy called with excitement in her voice (or was it caffeine?)  Her department graduation for Computer Sciences at Portland State University was coming up.  She saw that we would be traveling through Portland that weekend and wondered if we would consider coming a day or two early with our ukuleles. She was writing a little ditty with the Bulgarian receptionist and he was a singer-songwriter.  It would be fun to teach the faculty a couple of chords on the ukulele and have them strum along while Cathy and her staff play in the background with a little twirling choreography to spice it up.  The serious nature of the graduating class, engineers and scientists, made it an enticing prospect for the Ukalaliens theme.  The graduating students would be flabbergasted with the sight of their teachers on ukuleles.

“Of course!” we replied.  “We’ll be happy to help. Ukalaliens in the Computer Sciences Department – cool!”

Besides, it was so unusual for a request like this from Cathy – it was an overt act of support for what we do that she even asked.  Happiness fluttered inside at the prospect of providing her with something important – even in the form of two dozen Kala travel tenor ukes.

Her voice sounded so tickled to have us onboard that my heart felt satisfied that this was something that only Steve and I could provide.  It was unusual for Cathy, usually so serious and practical, to come up with a scheme like this.  It sounded fun.

So, we planned our runout to Eugene to include an overnight in Portland for Cathy’s department graduation before the weekend of concerts and workshops down south.

Graduation morning in the Department of Computer Sciences and Engineering arrives. We arrived early to tune the ukes up and rig the faculty with ukes and show them the chords they’ll play when the ukes come out from hiding and get handed out to faculty scientist and engineers sitting in front of the graduation class.

One by one, professorial types approached our bins of ukuleles in freshly pressed suits, some a bit reluctant but ready to learn their two chords. These scientists and engineers are heavyweights in the cutting edge of new technology.

The twinkle in the eye of research scientist, Ivan Sutherland, lights up as he comes out from the Asychronous Research Center office to explore the fundamentals of the uke we hand him. We are in the presence of greatness. Ivan is responsible for computer graphics as we now know it – it was his “sketchpad” that started it all.  He is still in thick of it and delighted to be there.  I have been introduced as “family” but neither Cathy nor I volunteer anything more specific. We keep our focus on the ukes and grin.

A smile crosses the impish face of a tall scientist next to Ivan and we are introduced to Marek Perkowski, head scientist in Intelligent Robotics.  Marek is creating a robotic theatre company with his creations, a nod to his famous puppeteer ancestor in Poland. We are captivated by the work of both of these scientists and offer to help if we can contribute any musical or artistic aspect to their most interesting efforts. The conversation is fun and the context new to us in the hallowed halls of science and learning.

We are ukalaliens amongst giants here.  Awed by the brains we stand between, we hand the ukes out with a bit more reverence to this distinguished and dignified bunch. This is a first encounter between ukalaliens and scientists.  There is joshing in between their investigative reception of the instrument in their hands and our guidance. So experienced in their respective fields, they are brand new at this – that’s where we come in. The contrast between our offering and theirs is not lost on us.  Steve and I look at each with wonder – our work brings us into the most interesting circles. This one is at Cathy’s invitation – no small thing on so many levels.

We bring the ukes upstairs to the big room being prepared for the graduates and two hundred attendees.  Unzipping the gigbags out of two blue bins on the dolly, we place the skinny Kala travel tenor ukes behind the rim of the round table skirting the presentation area.  No one will be able to see them from there and they will be easy to grab and deliver into faculty hands when the time comes.

Cathy has worked out some cute slow-twirl choreography with the administrative staff to dance behind the playing scientists.  We have been asked to join the uke crew off to the side to lend support as they dive in to the song.  The dark-eyed young Bulgarian receptionist/songwriter is full of energy as he riffs on his Martin guitar, warming up for the processional.  We sit on two chairs next to him and watch the graduates line up and walk in line to take their seats.

There are short speeches by the department heads and dean followed by awards and the traditional granting of diplomas, sashes and handshakes.  When the list is finished, the Bulgarian dashes to the middle as we quickly grab the tabled ukes-in-waiting and hand them out. The eyes of the new grads grow wide as they watch their dignified mentors smile and begin to strum in concert with the song enthusiastically erupting. A few just hold them but most are strumming away. The dancing ukulele-playing support staff behind the faculty follow Cathy’s lead on her left and right and begin their slow twirl with big smiles and we strum along the side.

I watch Cathy with such pride and joy.  She is beaming and beautiful in her full-skirted white summer dress. Her smile lights up the entire room, dissolving academic gravity with pure enjoyment. The chamber of my secret with her fills with the light of her smile.  I savor watching her strumming and twirling with the smile as she turns. This is a delicious moment for me. She has managed this entire event and dances through it as though it’s all just a lark off the cuff. It’s more than that. It took guts for her to talk them into this. Her staff knows how smart she is – her boss is grateful she is there. Her ability coupled with warmth that is clearly a bonus to the department. They love that she is there. Ivan made a point of saying so. I feel some awe that she has brought us into this place and moment in her workplace and joy that we could do it.  She turns again and her cronies to the right and left turn with her. It’s a lovely sight.  I’m chuckling as we strum. The song is a hit – it touches the funny bone of the student body and the room erupts in applause and laughter. She wrote the music and he penned the words. Her first co-write. The uplifting finale elevates the event and everyone relaxes in victory and surprise.

The room fills up with the buzz of post-graduation chatter and congratulatory laughter as the new graduates mix with family and staff and prepare for the barbeque awaiting them outside.

Steve and I begin our closing routine and retrieve the ukes to begin zipping them back into their bags, line them up to stack in the bins and clip the bungie chords end-to-end on the dolly to roll back to the car.  I reach over for another uke to zip and overhear a man’s voice say the words “biological mother” in answer to a questioning tone on the edge of the crowd.  My cover is lost in those words as I reckon that my identity is a bit of a curiosity in this setting.  Cathy and I have been “out” for years but in new settings it’s always a tricky balance. “Biological mother.” It sounds so odd.  I’m not sure how to feel and my insides deflate. The words jar me and I feel exposed. His tone was so matter-of-fact – like naming an rarely seen animal in the zoo. I’m not sure what to do as I digest the scene. There’s no way to tell Steve or say anything here. I keep my focus and zip the rest of the bag, grab another uke and pack it up

Cathy and I text back and forth as Steve and I fill up our plates at the barbeque. She is busy with celebrating with the staff and working through the back end of her afternoon. Her text and voice mail is full of thanks.  My heart is thankful and confused. There is a place for me here.  The fact that it’s an odd chair at the table doesn’t make it any less a chair.  I choose to take my place and am glad for it. It is a hard seat but its mine.  I may not ever get used to what people call me or think of me in this context.  It was meant to be a secret. I am an exposed secret in ordinary settings. I am showing up in spite of feeling that I don’t belong there.  Cathy invited me and I said yes. That’s all there is to it.  I may be a fish swimming upstream and that is just the nature of my existence here.  Maybe I’ll get used to it, maybe not. I’m a fish so I swim.

Steve and I pack the ukes in the car. He holds my hand and we begin our walk to catch a matinee of “Midnight in Paris.”  Today was a special one. Tomorrow Eugene.

~~~~~
To view my daughter’s blog on the same topic, please visit ReunionEyes.

mothertone & ReunionEyes

Mother & Child

Kathleen~Cathleen

mothertone –  That’s me.  A me you might or might not know.  Either way, it’s a slice of life as I know it and a possible surprise to the unsuspecting friend, acquaintance, fan or customer. Blog “mothertone” speaks from my voice as a birthmother.  I’ve been in reunion with my forty-something daughter, Cathy, for twenty-two years now.

If you already read this on the Quality Folk blog, you might like to click the blue arrow above to previous posts for more background. Welcome to the story of the story.

Cathy and I have been writing Kathleen~Cathleen for seven years.  It is a memoir from two perspectives, me the birthmother I am and she as the child-in-reunion she is. For seven years we have been brewing on the same chapters, designed to describe the turning points in our relationship.  We are committed to being in relationship for life. Kathleen~Cathleen explores the challenges inherent in a long term relationship-in-reunion.

Housed in the framework, the culture of our times, we found ourselves in an undiscovered place – a crossroads with no roadmap. There was no language, literally no words, to tell us what to call one another or how to introduce each other or carry on in society. Even today, there is still no word in the dictionary for what is only recently referred to as “birthmother.”  An ancient delivery system of child to an family, the word itself seems to have been banished from a designated definition, place or description in the book of words. No discussion can exist that uses a word that doesn’t exist.  A turning of the linguistic back created an invisible wall between what is and what is not to shield the saddest of separations in the family domain, that of child from mother and mother from the child.

Cathy and I are protective of the truth harboring our relationship.  Since the conception of our book in January 2004, we decided to write freely – together – but not to share our writing with one another until we were done.  We would leave the truth of our words to describe our mutual experiences and let them grow in a  garden of chapters, unaffected and uninterrupted by the gaze of birthmother on the words of her child and the child’s eyes on the mother’s as they attempt to describe the journey from and to each other from the inside out – a memoir in duet.

Kathleen~Cathleen.  Our names are just one of many synchronicities common in our story.  “At 18” opened in labor & delivery and was followed by an eighteen year-old girl calling the adoption agency to inquire after birth records only to find that her birthmother had called the same day.

From beginning to end, this story describes life-in-reunion in the long term – after the honeymoon glow grows dim and the shadow of loss comes to anchor in grief, and the journey through the uncharted rift of relinquishment-in-reunion that comes to roost in all the colors and shades of reconciliation.

Many drafts in, the beginning is finished and our friend and editor, Barbara, hand-delivered it in New York City on Mother’s Day, two weeks ago.  For the first time, eyes and hearts will take in both sides of what we’ve each written and they will decide what we’ve got here.

We think we know what we’ve got here.

We’d like to share it with you.

So now, we’ve started new blogs to begin to talk about it.

My daughter, Cathy’s (Cathleen) is ReunionEyes and mine (Kathleen) is mothertone – our side roads from the life and adventures of she, as mother of two young sons in Portland, Oregon and me on the maternal side of the singing, string-playing songwriter you’ve been running into over music all these years.

I know it’s on the personal side. That hasn’t stopped anybody from following the thread of our history over the years – the music, the art, the writing, the shop, the stories – it’s ALL been personal – all along.

We just happen to be in a business that is about people, folks, community, music, harmony; and this is one of my stories about being a girl who came of age between two worlds and grew old(er) and wise(r) with some grit, salt, tears and laughter mixed in. It’s all in there.

If you prefer, you can stick with the music, the ukulele, the song-singing, the music calendar and not stop to worry yourself about the intrepid territory (did she say birthmother?) described there.

We’ve always been out, Cathy and me, but that’s a whisper in a noisy storm of unspoken stories shifting to be heard.  It’s been a very quiet theme all these years, decades, centuries – why yell about it now? Well, it’s too a quiet story to hold it back forever.  It may just be that the time has come to let this story out.

So this is just one way of talking about our story. Blogging from both sides is an interactive side-journal to writing the book.  The blog is one way for both of us to talk about our process and the things that we think about – inside and outside of our chapters.  We’ll write freely about mutual topics we choose. We won’t expose ourselves to each other’s views and answers to our questions in common just yet.  YOU, the reader will learn what we both think  – long before we do – and you’ll come to your own conclusions – a bit wiser than either of us. The story is bigger than the two of us put together. That’s why we decided to tell it.

Kathleen~Cathleen and the two collateral blogs are a social experiment between Cathy and me.  We have chosen to commit our experiences to words, in the hope that understanding for people affected by adoption, relinquishment and reunion, will grow and that they will be encouraged by what is possible.  Imagined or realized, reunion opens much more than a door to a greeting from a long lost relative.  It is a family claim.

Now, according to ground rules Cathy and I established for ourselves seven years ago, we are going to blog freely without visiting each other’s blogs or writing.  We are still deep in drafts of Kathleen~Cathleen. Our aim remains to remain in a free-zone from the influence of each other on our writing until we have completed the story.

Someday soon we will read it all and this part of our shared privacy protecting words and chapters will be finished and over.  Until then, we’ll keep doing what we’ve been doing for a long time now. It’s a safe way for us to tell the story. It gives us the room to breathe as we approach turning point chapters in our relationship and spit out the hard parts along with the rest, some in words that haven’t been said out loud before this.

So, I hereby invite you, dear reader, to witness a previously unexposed part of the life of Kate; the Kate you know and the Kate you don’t.  My blog at mothertone will reflect the dilemmas and victories of a birthmother-in-reunion. You are also invited to Cathy’s blog and thoughts from the world of an adoptee in longterm reunion at ReunionEyes.

We hope that our work on Kathleen~Cathleen will create a roadmap for anyone seeking reunion and that it will give them courage to seek what’s possible by reading our story.

We appreciate your comments as we bring our project, book and blogs into the world. Another birth of sorts – only this one belongs to the family of man – the story belongs to all of us.

Feel free to explore mothertone and ReunionEyes for a taste of what we’re up to and respond with anything you’d like to share.  This is an interactive effort that we hope will benefit anyone interested in understanding or pursuing reunion.

Harmony is no small gift. We appreciate that much of what is discussed on these blogs may come as a surprise to readers, even close family and friends.  Please bear with us as we allow the true discussion to cross the table – if not yet with each other, then with you. We appreciate the protection of our privacy as we begin to introduce our process of writing Kathleen~Cathleen and the variety of forms its effect may have take flight.

Thank you for the incredible support so many of you have given us over the years – in our music and art – as we continue to participate in the ongoing parables of Life we share, observe and sally through as a community in art, music, heart and soul.   – kate

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
To view my daughter’s blog on the same topic, please visit ReunionEyes.

dr. phil called …

Otters by steve einhorn©2008The phone rang on a rainy Thursday morning, January 15, 2004. I was working the City Desk, as my desk was affectionately called, in the upstairs office of our musical instrument shop. Artichoke Music was the folk musician’s hub in Portland, Oregon. My desk overlooked the main floor where I could see my husband, Steve, as he encountered customers of all shapes and sizes passing through our doors. He was responsible for the bounty of beautiful instruments hanging by their proud necks and waiting to be lifted, played and taken home from the blonde maple walls that held them on display. Steve was a zookeeper of sorts. He loved the instruments, knew their history, all of their idiosyncracies. He played the go-between and facilitated matching the stringed woody creatures with the people who came itching to play them. I loved watching him work with the people. He was a trustworthy guide with experience, humor and grace. Our customers loved him and so did I.

The caller on the phone surprised me. It was Sharon, a therapist my eldest daughter and I had seen years before. Dr. Phil’s show had called her because of her groundbreaking reputation as a social worker in the forefront of adoption and reunion therapy. She was also a birthmother in a longstanding reunion with her daughter. She and her daughter had led therapy groups for birthmothers and adoptees in reunion, respectively. Cathy introduced me to the idea after she started in the adoptee group and, taking her lead, I began attending the group for birthmothers. The experience helped us during a time when this kind of therapeutic support was unheard of and we pioneered the world of reunion under the compassionate wings of these two remarkable women.

The Dr. Phil show was looking for a “veteran pair” in reunion for a show they were planning. They needed a mother and child in a reunion that had come to maturity. The production assistant got the directive to call Sharon for a lead. Sharon was calling me because Cathy and I were the first ones to come to mind. Would we want to do the show?

Before giving the network our contact information, she was checking to see if we would be interested in telling our story on Dr. Phil’s show. They would fly us down to Los Angeles the following Tuesday, tape the show Wednesday morning and run it nationally that afternoon. Maybe Cathy and I could take an extra day in L.A. and make a holiday of it.

I called Cathy on her direct line at Nike, told her what was going on and asked her, “What do you think?  Do you want to do it?”   She said, “Sure. I need a haircut before we go but sure, let’s do it.”

I called Sharon back and gave her the news. She passed it on to Dr. Phil’s production assistant who would call me later with details.

Cathy and I have always been “out” with our story and circumstances. I don’t have a television but I knew who Dr. Phil was. It was my mother’s favorite show. The tabloids were always full of him duking it out with Oprah. Were we ready for something like this?

I waited for the call at the shop. The phone rang and the producer’s assistant interviewed me for a half an hour. She peppered my answers with exclamations, “That’s amazing!” and “Wow, that’s fantastic!”, “Good story!”

I hung up feeling like I’d just been plucked out of my usual routine and dropped off at the starting line for a race I’d never imagined entering. More like a dream than awake, I nervously wondered if I was about to become cannon fodder for some bizarre media setting to blaze our tender story in front of millions of viewers around the country one day, left to ashes the next.

Dr. Phil’s assistant told me she’d get back to me the next day with details for the show. The call came in as scheduled on Friday afternoon. Thanking me for my time and willingness to share our story, she told me that Dr. Phil would not be using us for the show after all. Frankly, she said, our story didn’t leave Dr. Phil with anything to work with.

I called Cathy at work and asked her if she’d gotten her hair cut.

“Yep”, she said.

“Dang!  I hate to tell you this but it’s not going to happen; they don’t want us because our story is too far along and we have good results in our life and relationship and there’s nothing left for him to do to help us on his show.”

“What!  But I had all the people picked out to play our parts in the movie!” she belly-laughed.

We hung up and went back to work; me selling strings at the counter at Artichoke Music and she from her desk in the design department at Nike headquarters ten miles away.

Ten minutes later my phone rang.

I heard the tickle in her voice as Cathy said, “You know what, Kate?  The heck with Dr. Phil!  You know that book of our story we’ve been talking about writing for the last ten years?   Let’s do it. Let’s write it. We’ll shop the story to Oprah. Oprah loves happy endings. Her whole show is dedicated to inspiring people to follow their dreams and succeed. We’re perfect!”

And that was the beginning of our book, Kathleen~Cathleen.

Two weeks later we began to meet. We made an outline and laid out the chapters based on the turning points in our relationship. We would write the same chapters from our unique perspectives; me in my role as the birthmother and she as relinquished daughter in-reunion. In the first chapter, “At 18”  – me pregnant in labor and delivery and her side eighteen years later contemplating reunion.

To tell the true story, we would write independently. We made a pact not to share our writing with each other until we were finished. We would meet regularly, sort out any mutual thoughts about the structure of the story and write, laptops touching, our separate sides, views and experiences of the same chapters. Then, when we were ready we would read it to each other, together. We didn’t know how long it would take. We wanted to deliver the honest story from both sides. From there we would find an editor and a way to share it with the world.

It has taken courage for us to tell our story. We have included our real names and experiences as birthmother and relinquished daughter who have come into reunion as adults and found our way into each other lives from that moment on.

We know this is not simply a story about birth, relinquishment and reclamation. It’s a story of hope, identity and humanity. It is a story of the invisible tie between two lives sustained in different worlds and coming of age apart from each other.

We bear similar fruit, like grafted trees. She, my branch removed and grafted to another host tree, left my wound to recover and scar up over time while she matured into a healthy, unique tree apart from me in a different stand of roots.

When the season was ripe, miraculously, beyond logic and the odds, we found one another. Between the sweet and bitter truth of our story, we found a stretch of road upon which we now travel back and forth to one another. We are not the only ones. This is the road we have charted together, mother to daughter and daughter to mother. We are a pair. This book is our invisible map and how it came to light.

Today marks almost seven and a half years since we began our book. It’s almost done. Our manuscripts are thick. We still have not shared a word of our chapters – that will come when we’re sure we’re finished. It won’t be long now before we fully share our sides with each other.

Our friend, Barbara, has been the recipient, editor and holding station for our chapters.She has helped us refine it to pitch to publishers and make it ready to share with the world. It was she who hand-delivered it in New York City to its first reader this Mother’s Day. This reader is the first one to integrate the truth of our chapters, even before we do. This is a faith walk, a labor of love and an act of trust between my daughter and me. When the reader knows more than the author does, something revolutionary is happening.

Our original concept was caught in a zeitgeist when my daughter called me early on Mother’s Day morning to announce that a book much like ours was reviewed in the Parade magazine of the Sunday paper. She was frightened that our work had been for nothing. I was sure it was a sign that we were on the right path. Even if we weren’t the first out of the gate with our book, we were in the race to dispel the myths that have rendered adoptees and birthmothers invisible, not only to each other but to the world and communities they live in.

Perhaps the time has come for all of us to tell the story, each in our own way, of the oldest secret in history – the true story of relinquishment, adoption, reunion and reconciliation. We are not alone.

~~~~~
To view my daughter’s blog on the same topic, please visit ReunionEyes.